Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking backward and forward. But mostly backward

The last time I featured Ryne Sandberg in a tux, I listed the 100 things that I had learned about card-collecting in 2008.

I was just four months into blogging then. By some people's standards I am a grizzled blogging veteran now -- I have the bronzed trophy of a dude in his underwear sitting at his computer to prove it -- but I still have a lot to learn.

Although it's obvious I enjoy a good list, I'm not going to do that this year. I'm just going to look back at my favorite posts from '09 here at Night Owl Cards -- you know, just in case I have to pad the resume. I do still write for a living, so you never know when I'll have to dash off a copy of that ode to 1984 Donruss to a prospective employer.

So these are the posts that I liked. These are the posts that didn't make me go, "god, what a load of crap THAT was."

First are the posts that showed how great this blogging community is.

Feb. 6: Thanks to Brian at 30-Year-Old Cardboard, I made my first successful TTM try in 2009. Cey is really the only autographed card I've ever wanted. But that didn't make the successes this year with Duke Snider, Fernando Valenzuela, Jerry Reuss and Carl Erskine any less enjoyable.

June 19: Zach from Autographed Cards provided the most mind-blowing moment for me in 2009, sending along this glossy photo that Orel Hershiser signed to "Night Owl." I am still amazed.

Second among my favorite posts are the ones about the goings-on in the hobby that struck a chord with readers. I'm not someone who is on the cutting edge of card collecting. I don't expect to be getting free boxes of product to bust here. But I do pay attention and sometimes I have an opinion.
Aug. 6: News of Upper Deck losing its MLB license prompted me to remember my all-time favorite Upper Deck set. That set was so good that it made this Topps devotee completely shun Topps for all of 1993.

June 3: I received this card in a trade, and it wasn't long before I noticed that there was an extra foot growing out of Manny Ramirez's leg. A steroid side-effect? No, not unless use of certain female fertility drugs causes you to sprout a size 13 shoe. It was just Topps/Bowman erasing the umpire but forgetting to erase his foot!

June 7 and June 8: I write this blog under the impression that only a few devoted card collectors are going to read it. But I should know that anyone can stumble across it. When MLB scout Larry Pardo did, he wasn't thrilled with my diatribe against Bowman's scout autograph cards. I don't have a problem with scouts. Not even Larry. But I do dislike scout autographs. And so do people who voted in the worst card of '09 poll.

Aug. 7: I also hate it when people call card collectors "nerds," or card collecting "nerdy." I almost hate it even more when card collectors say, "Yeah, you're right, we're nerds." Speak for yourself. I collect cards, but I am not nerdy. I have a home, a family, a decent job, friends, and write my blog in a well-lit dining room. Oh, and memo to Kornheiser and Wilbon: card collecting will be around when your show is not.

Next are the quirky posts. I'm actually more comfortable when I'm not speaking for a community but doing my own little off-the-wall thing. If others like it, that's all the better.

May 4: As a child, my brother and I came up with a name for the player that makes the last out in a game. With a little reminiscing and research, a post was born. I'm happy others got a kick out of it. Kids have the best ideas.

Sept. 6: Alyssa Milano's news that she was married was crushing, and it wasn't because she is an attractive TV/movie actress who is also a Dodger fan. It's because she went over to the dark side for a husband. It was like one of those bad Charmed episodes. Wait a minute, they were all bad. Nice outfits. But bad.

March 1: I never expected my obsessive ranking of my personal preference in baseball teams to be of interest to anyone. Little did I know that lots of other people do this. And I'll be updating the list in 2010.

But my favorite posts are the ones that tell a personal story. Yeah, maybe it's narcissistic, but I'm writing with the hope of connecting with others who think like me or have encountered the same situation. I'm sick of getting blank looks in real life. These are posts that made a connection.

April 22: I have something called synesthesia. It causes me to associate words or letters with colors. After I wrote the post, I came across others who either had this condition or knew people who did. It was cool to hear their stories.

March 24: One of my favorite memories as a kid was when my dad placed a large grocery bag full of 195os baseball cards on the dining room table. I love having a community of card collectors who can appreciate stories like this. And I like to read their stories, too. Why else would I spend hours each day in front of the computer?

July 31: Unlike some bloggers, I don't get to go to a lot of ball games. But the game I went to this year will stay in my mind forever. It's the day my daughter admitted she enjoyed baseball. She hasn't repeated that sentiment since. But I just have to get her out to another game.

Sept. 24: One of my favorite things about reading other blogs is how much reverence they have for the past players of the game. That inspired me to tell a story about my acquaintance with a pitcher from the 1950s. I really enjoyed writing the post and the comments made afterward.

OK, that's enough regurgitation. I'll move onto the Worst Card of 2009.

After 83 votes in the poll, the winner of the Worst Card, in fairly easy fashion is:

The "I Love You" Virus card from the despised Upper Deck 20th Anniversary Retrospective set.

It was pretty obvious that this card was going to win. Nobody liked getting these cards in their packs. And when the restrospective card was not sports-related, that was even worse.

I'm guessing some folks didn't vote for that card because it wasn't connected to baseball. So here is the baseball card that received the most votes as the worst card:
Congrats to Michael Young. Michael --- wake up! You've won. Michael! Michael!

Ah, never mind. Here is the final "Worst Card" tally:

1. I Love You Virus, UD 20th Anniversary Retrospective, 28 votes
2. Michael Young, O-Pee-Chee Moments insert, 19 votes
3. Larry Pardo, Bowman scout autograph card, 13 votes
4. Dave Concepcion, Goudey, 10 votes
5. Ryan Braun, Topps, 4 votes
6. Dave Winfield, UD 20th Anniversary Retrospective, 3 votes
7. Tony Gwynn, UD 20th Anniversary Retrospective, 2 votes
7. Cito Gaston, Topps, 2 votes
9. Humberto Quintero, Topps, 2 votes

Thanks for the votes.

By now you're saying, "that's an awful lot of looking backward, Night Owl. Where's the looking forward?"

Well, I don't have a lot to say about what's ahead, mostly because I can't predict the future. So what I'd say would mostly involve wishes and speculation. Wishes are great but you don't need another blog to yammer about on-card autographs and more/fewer products. There are enough of those folks elsewhere. They do it better.

And as far as speculation? Hate it.

So, the following is about all I'll write about looking forward: I opened a hobby box of Topps Chrome yesterday. It wasn't kind to me.

There were two guaranteed autographs:
The first one is Sergio Escalona, a young pitcher for the Phillies. This card is spoken for already. I just swung a deal for it.

This is the other one. Young Michael Bowden of the Red Sox. I pulled another Red Sox auto a couple of weeks ago. Well, an ex-Red Sox auto. Justin Masterson, out of a box of Goodwin.

Both are up for trade. I'm looking for Dodger autos. The more current the better.

So there you go. There's the "looking forward" part. I have a trade in my future!

Happy New Year! May 2010 be the best blogging year ever.

The best cards of 2009

Today, Russell Martin is handing over the crown. He has reigned for a full year as "The Best Card of 2008." But now it's time for a new card to take on all the responsibilities that are necessary with such a lofty title.

Like I promised before, I am going to count down the best cards of 2009. At one point I had thought of posting a poll so folks could vote on their favorites. But I do enough damn polls. I'm sick of them. So, I'm going communist on this blog. You're going to accept whatever card I determine as the best and you'll LIKE IT. The ruler has spoken.

This list is restricted to cards that I pulled during the past year. And I'm not including "hit" cards -- relics or autos. They're too unique -- well, relatively speaking. It's hard to compare them to regular cards.

The list didn't change a lot from the first one I did back in August. That's because I did the bulk of my 2009 card shopping in the first eight months. And what came out in the final four months didn't impress me much. There's no Goodwin on this list. No T206. Only one Updates & Highlights card.

And, like before, there is no base Upper Deck. If you want to know why, ask yourself, "do you know anyone trying to complete the 2009 UD base set?" Neither do I.

The countdown begins with four cards that aren't special in their own way. Instead, they represent a certain '09 innovation that I appreciated, so I'm honoring them in the countdown.

OK, on with the little dog-and-pony countdown show:

20. Allen & Ginter Negro League stars cards: This was a nice aspect of this year's A&G set. I enjoyed learning about these players, few of whom I had known before this year. Very well-done, but not overdone.

19. Topps Updates & Highlights propaganda cards: I hate to keep showing the Ramirez card, but it's the only one I've got. And really, the only one that matters to me. To me, the propaganda cards were the perfect execution of displaying non-photographic art on a card.

18. Allen & Ginter Creatures of Legend, Myth & Terror: Not all of A&G's insert sets interest me, but I thought this was a cool idea. I traded away the Nessie card, but I wouldn't mind having it back.

17. Topps Wal-Mart black cards: Topps butchered the entire idea of this in Series 2. I don't know if I'll ever get any of the Series 2 black Dodger cards. But the actual look of the card won me over and looked great (although they smelled a bit weird). It's an entire set of night cards!

16. Cat Osterman, Allen & Ginter: OK, now we're onto the actual individual card. This card is great for one reason: it's a card of an attractive, successful female athlete. Female card collectors enjoy a perk in this hobby that male collectors don't: the eye-candy aspect. This card reverses things a little. Maybe Topps is on to something here. I mean look at how popular this card was.
15. Rich Harden, Topps base: There's a blog that doesn't like this card. I don't get it. This is one of the most photographically artistic cards I've seen in a long time. But art is subjective.

14. Albert Pujols, Allen & Ginter sketch card insert: Speaking of which, I am one of the few who doesn't care about the sketch cards that have popped up in sets the last couple of years. There are so many of them that do not look good. However, this is not one. A very sweet card.

13. Brandon Jones, Topps Heritage: Jones is back again and he still looks pissed. I wish there was an actual background and then this really would look like a 1960s throw-back card. Because Jones has that intense stare that I see on a lot of '60s cards down cold.

12. David DeJesus, Topps base: I don't know how I left this card off the first list. That is a great shot. There are so many award-winning worthy photos in the '09 base set.

11. Jon Lester, Topps base: It's difficult to put a new spin on a photo of a pitcher throwing the ball to home plate. This isn't necessarily new, but it has all the ingredients. And you see the focus on Lester's face.

10. Reed Johnson, Topps base: Lots of people like this card. You could make an argument for it being the best card of the year. I'll go with you on that.

9. Chone Figgins, O-Pee-Chee: There are a number of panoramic-type shots in the OPC set. It almost makes up for the bazillion studio shots. This is my favorite one.

8. Paul Konerko, Topps base: Out of all the different photos to pop up in the '09 base set, this is the "most different."

7. Nelson Cruz, Topps base: Best tightest action shot of the year? Yup.

6. Andy LaRoche, Topps Heritage: To me, success in the Heritage set is when you look at the card and everything about it seems like it is "of the era" that is being portrayed with the design. This card does the best job of that.

5. Roy Halladay, O-Pee-Chee black: A new entry on the countdown! What a killer card. I stopped what I was doing when I pulled this card because it looked so good when I saw it. The black border really makes the card.

4. Reggie Abercrombie, Topps base: I'm guessing Abercrombie is out on this play. But he remains a success because his card was the first sign that the 2009 set would not be like that lousy '08 Topps offering.

3. Jim Thome, Topps base: This was No. 1 on the first countdown. I bumped Thome down a bit because I've realized the other two cards are better. But I still think it's a great shot. Classic old-timey shot of a classic, old-timey player.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Allen & Ginter: I really, really wanted to put this card at No. 1 and have Dodgers winning the best card of the year honors two years running. But someone might smell something fishy and close this place down. Still, you can't dispute that it's beyond awesome.

1. David Murphy, Topps base: The champion of 2009! This is the feel-good, baseball-in-July, everything-is-right-with-the-world card of all cards. And that's why it's the best card of 2009.

There you have it. A pretty fine year for some sets. A lousy one for others. Here's to some more great stuff in 2010! Upper Deck! Show us what you've got next year! Do you have anything?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Post-Christmas blowout

I spent my Christmas money today. Most of it anyway. Oh, what a lovely day that is. It's the only day of the year that I enjoy shopping. It's like I suddenly become a male version of Rebecca Bloomwood. It's alarming.

Baseball cards will bring that out in a guy. Thank goodness this day comes around only once a year. Otherwise I couldn't stand myself.

The first think I bought were some binders and some pages. As dull as those things are, I am very happy to have them. I can really do some damage on the stacks of cards I have piling up. But then I'm going to have to figure out where to put the binders. I might have to pull a Wrigley Wax and build some shelves in the basement. That will definitely get the shopping willies out of my system.

After that, I went to the hobby shop, and I swear that will be the last time. First, the place was awash in football and basketball. Even the boxes with loose packs. Yawn. Secondly, I was dying to buy a box of something. But everything was crazy overpriced.

I settled on a box of Topps Chrome because I think I'm going to try to kill off the set. Hopefully, this will do it (but probably not).

But I had to haggle with the owner over the price. For a long time. I hate that. The only haggling I ever do is when I am buying a car. And I even hate the hell out of that. But for a freakin' box of cards? From now on: Online. All the time. And I might return to the hobby shop -- to applaud when he locks up for good.

I got him down to something semireasonable and left with my cards in a huff. That was actually the end of the shopping experience for me.

But before I hit the hobby shop, I was in Target. I happened by the card aisle, where it looked like the place not only was bombed, but that it was bombed back to 2008. Updates & Highlights from 2008, Timeline from 2008, Documentary from 2008. I cannot find 2009 Heritage High Numbers anywhere around here.

So, I settled on a few packs here and there. The last pack I opened yielded the biggest surprise.

First I went with 2 packs of Topps Chrome. I know I bought a hobby box, too, but you can't find the xrefractors in the hobby box. And sometimes ...

... you get two xrefractors in one pack. Even in xrefractor mode, Ryan Braun looks sleepy.

I also selected two packs of O-Pee-Chee. I have a lot of this set, but I'm still not committed to completing it. Sedate me and remove a brain cell or two, and I might commit fully.

There was nothing great there. This insert card was about as thrilling as it got. But I like OPC for its understated quirkiness anyway, so that's cool with me.

Yes, I bought one pack of Documentary. Mostly because it was cheap and because I need like 150 more of the Dodger cards.

I didn't get a single Dodger card. Just stupid stuff like this: a card praising the Reds in a 12-6 win by the Mets.

Finally, I grabbed three packs of SP. I bought these only because it was the only baseball-related brand there that I hadn't purchased yet. I like variety, so I had to try these.

The box was filled. It looked like only one pack had been purchased. When I opened the first two packs, it was the usual ho-hum SP fare. And there was a useless 20th anniversary Tiger Woods card, about the 9th one I've pulled.

Then I opened pack three.

The Clayton Kershaw card was in that pack. I already have this card. But it's always good when Clayton stops by to say hello.

But there was a card in front of the Kershaw card. The third card in the pack.

How about that? That is an autographed card of Kevin Kouzmanoff there. Hmmm, someone collects Kouz cards don't they?

This was quite a surprise. The first time I ever pulled an autographed card out of a loose pack was a major disappointment. This makes up for it.

I haven't opened my hobby box yet. I'm guaranteed of getting two autographed cards. I know those are on-card as opposed to the sticker Kouzmanoff here. But I'll be interest to see if those cards are of anyone more notable.

If they are, you'll know.